How to Use Wet Wrap Therapy for Eczema
Looking for something to relieve the nagging itch and dry, flaky skin of eczema? Wet wrap therapy targets these exact symptoms. Although wet wraps aren’t a cure for eczema, when used consistently, they can provide amazing relief!
My son benefitted from wet wrap therapy as a baby. We were introduced to wet wraps when he was hospitalized for his severe eczema. The doctor and nurses showed us the technique and we continued which we used in the hospital and at home. The wet wraps definitely provided relief from itching and reduced inflammation on his skin.
Wet wrapping is not really difficult, but it is a bit time-consuming, so some advanced planning and a commitment to do it are necessary. Let’s dive in!
What is Wet Wrap Therapy?
Wet wrap therapy is essentially what it sounds like: wrapping something wet around the affected area. It is also referred to as the “soak and seal” method. The skin should be hydrated by the bath, moisturizer or medication applied, then clothing or a bandage is dampened with water and wrapped around the affected part of the body. The wet layer is covered by a dry layer to keep in the moisture and provide warmth.
Are Wet Wraps Effective?
Wet wrap therapy has been around for several decades and has been found to be effective for a number of skin conditions, including eczema.A 2014 study by researchers at National Jewish Health (a facility known for its excellent work in treating eczema) found that with the use of wet wrap therapy, eczema was reduced by over 70% with effects lasting for a month. Wet wraps reduced the need for prescription creams and antibiotics.
Wet wraps work for several reasons:
- They hydrate the skin by locking in moisture for an extended period of time.
- The wrap allows a topical treatment to stay on the skin and be more fully absorbed, having a greater effect.
- As the water evaporates, it provides a cooling effect to the skin, reducing inflammation and itching.
How to Use Wet Wrap Therapy (Step-by-step)
- For best results, before applying wet wraps, bathe first to hydrate the skin. Soak for 15-20 minutes in lukewarm water.
- When finished in the bath, pat the skin dry with a towel and immediately apply moisturizer generously to the affected areas. (Remember: the moisturizer will be penetrating the skin deeply. Consider something natural.Products such as emu oil and shea butter are highly moisturizing, natural choices!)
- Make the wet layer wet. The goal is for the wet layer to be sufficiently damp, but not dripping. Wet it with warm, not hot, water, then wring out the excess water.What should you use for the wet layer?
- You can use a damp sleeper for a baby (natural fabric such as cotton or bamboo)
- Damp cotton or other natural fabric clothing can be used for adults or children
- Wet socks can cover hands
- A wet cotton scarf can be carefully wrapped around the neck, but if it’s a child, watch very carefully so the scarf does not become too tight!
- A role of gauze bandageis convenient for wrapping just part of the body
- Specially designed wet wrap clothing is available! These clothing items can make wet wrapping more convenient and comfortable. You can find body suits for infants, clothing for larger children and adults, socks, hats, gloves and wraps for places like the elbow or knee.
- Put on the wet layer, making sure to fully cover any effected skin areas.
- Fully cover the wet layer with a drylayer to retain the moisture of the wet layer.What can you use for a dry layer?
- Use cotton clothing that is large enough to cover the wet layer. Pajamas work well. You may need a size bigger than usual to comfortably accommodate covering the wet clothes underneath.
- Leave both layers on for at least 2 hours or as long as overnight. The key is that the wet layer should remain damp until removal.
- If the wet layer is drying out before the desired time to take it off, use a clean spray bottle of warm water to spray and re-wet the layer.
- After removing the wet wrap, reapply moisturizer.
Can I Wet Wrap the Head and Face?
Eczema often is found on the head and face, and wet wrapping is possible in these areas too. Gauze bandages or other specially designed wrap may be used, but care must be taken to keep the bandages loose enough as well as keep the airways open! For such a procedure it is suggested to seek direction from a qualified medical professional.
My husband and I werelearned to wet wrap our son’s head during our hospital stay when he was a baby.
How Often To Use Wet Wrap Therapy
For severe eczema, wet wraps can be used multiple times each day for several hours at a time. The study by National Jewish utilized the wet wraps two to three times a day. Great improvements were seen over four days’ time.As the eczema started to clear, the wet wraps were only applied to the affected areas only rather than the whole body.
Dr. Boguniewicz of National Jewish warns that proper technique is important and that overuse can do more harm than good. Talk to your medical care team about technique and frequency for your child.
Keep in mind that wet wrapping increases the absorption of whatever ointment, oil or cream you apply to the skin. Be sure that you have tested and benefit from what you chose to apply before using it with a wet wrap! Only use steroids or other prescription cream as directed by your doctor.
For more information on wet wraps and the study done by National Jewish Hospital, see their helpful video: